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This article was first seen on the Huffington Post. For this installment, we are joined by Hanna Hallman.
Let’s start off with a general introduction. How would you describe yourself, what are you all about and how did you get involved in health and fitness?
My name is Hanna Hallman and I was born and raised in a small town near Atlanta, Georgia.
Growing up, I was always athletic and played sports such as softball, basketball, tennis, golf, ran track and was also a cheerleader and dancer. In high school, I was on the All-Region softball team every year and on the All-star team.
I hopped around from University to University, starting out at Valdosta State University, then transferred to Georgia Tech and finally stayed put at Kennesaw State University, where I studied Exercise Science.
After I graduated high school, I decided to get back into dancing and auditioned and made a Semi-Pro cheerleading squad, the Atlanta Chiefs Cheerleaders, which I was a member of for two years. Soon after, I then auditioned and made an Arena football cheerleading squad, the Georgia Force Cheerleaders, which I was also a member of for two years. The last dance team I auditioned for and made was the Atlanta Hawks Cheerleaders and was on the squad for a year.
After dancing and cheering for some time now, I was ready for a change and I sought out a new sport to commit to. People would constantly ask if I compete and it was always in the back of my mind to get into the sport of bodybuilding, but I never took the initiative to begin the journey. I had always considered the sport, but wasn’t exactly sure where to start.
At this time, I was working for LA Fitness, where I had access to an amazing gym with tons of equipment. I began researching the sport of bodybuilding and the NPC to educate myself about the sport and what it takes to become a competitor. I started to subscribe to weightlifting program channels on YouTube and found myself learning new techniques every day. I had always went to the gym 5-6 days a week, but I felt it was time to take my training to a new level if competing was something I truly wanted to do. I fell in love with the sport and began to take it very seriously during my sophomore year of college.
After a few weeks of doing some major research and contemplating if the sport was something for me or not, I decided to take a leap of faith and begin to prep myself for my first Figure competition. I learned so much about myself during those many months of the both physically and mentally challenging stages of prep. From the very moment I decided to take my life in this new direction, I fell in love with the sport of bodybuilding and have enjoyed every moment of it since.
Where does your motivation come from?
My motivation comes from within myself. As long as I am a better me each time I step on stage, no matter my placing, I am proud of and happy with myself. I have finally found my passion and love everything about competing. I have met so many amazing and inspirational people, who have each made a positive impact on my life and will become some of my lifelong friends, mentors and support systems.
As I continue on my journey, knowing that I inspire and motivate so many people each and every day, means more to me than any title or trophy ever will. I truly believe there is always room for improvement and one should never settle or become comfortable in life, because that is when your competition has the chance to either catch up to or pass you. Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.
The only person I wake up every day and try to be better than is who I was yesterday. She is my ultimate competition and I won’t stop until I beat her. I’m a dream chaser and I will not stop running until I catch my dreams. I put my blood, sweat, tears, and everything I have into the chase because I crave being successful. I want to inspire others the way they have inspired me.
The only thing impossible in life is failure, as long as you keep trying and never ever give up. Your actions should be so dedicated that no one should have to ask you what you want.
As you decided to make a career out of your passion – what were your biggest stumbling blocks along the way?
I can’t say that I had many, if any. The only one I can really pinpoint is coming to the realization that not everyone is meant to understand my journey in life, which is exactly why it’s MY journey and not anyone else’s to approve of or understand. So, go for it (whatever “it” is for you)! Start! Don’t over think it! Your biggest stumbling block along the way will be your own self doubt, so get out of your head, take the emotion out of it and just get the job done!
What are the most unexpected lessons you’ve learned on your health and fitness journey this far?
When something is really meant for you, it doesn’t matter who is doubting, hating, or hoping you fail. You just keep on working, believing, and pursing what’s in your heart. Obstacles are the things we see when we take our focus off of our goals. Allow what God has put into your heart to guide you more than what the world has put before your eyes. When God sees you doing your part, developing what He has given you, then He will do His part and open doors that no man can shut.
What’s your perspective on the importance of self-care?
Taking good care of yourself is paramount to the success of your life. People often find that their physical, spiritual, and emotional health are all connected, and that supporting one supports the others. Taking care of all aspects of YOU will increase the likelihood that you reach each goal you set out before yourself. Be clear about why you set each of your goals and how your life will be different once each goal is achieved.
You should also consider the strengths and skills that you possess that will help you achieve your goals. Try to involve necessary support systems and resources that can help you through the process if and when you need it.
Finally, remember to stay focused on each goal and not on the difficulties you might be having. Keep an open mind, and know that you may hit barriers along the way. Anything in life worth having is no easy task, and focusing on the negative experiences will only make things harder on yourself.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about women lifting weight?
1. “Women shouldn’t lift heavy or they’ll get bulky.”
This is the biggest myth in all of female training, and it makes me want to punch a hole in the wall. YOU WILL NOT GET BULKY FROM PICKING UP HEAVY THINGS. You know those women bodybuilders who look really bulky? They eat and train specifically so they can look like that! They’ve probably been working towards that goal for years and years, too!
Here’s the truth: when you pick up heavy things, your muscles get STRONGER (but not necessarily bigger). If you pick up heavy things, and eat a caloric deficit (and eat the right kinds of food – actual healthy foods), your muscles will get stronger and denser; you will burn the fat on top of your muscle, and you will get that “toned” look that you’re after.
2. “One plan will work for every woman.”
You might be out shopping for that ‘master workout plan’ that works for everyone. You might read 10 different books on diet, each presenting a contrasting style that promises amazing results.
Here’s the truth: I don’t know. Everybody, both men and women, react to foods, training, and different stimuli differently. We are all genetically different, have unique characteristics, different lives, preferences, and struggles. The only way to know what works for you is to try it out, and then track your results. Yes, I am a big fan of strength training for both men and women. Will these things work for everybody? Nope.
3. “You need cardio to lose weight.”
If the thought of running on a treadmill for four hours sounds miserable to you, don’t do it. If you never run another mile in your entire life, there’s no reason you cannot be incredibly healthy and look amazing. Despite what you might think, and what you might see in a gym, you will never need to step foot on another cardio machine again. Unless you want to.
I’m a big fan of “do what makes you happy.” If you happen to enjoy running or zumba or step aerobics or jazzercise, that is awesome. More power to you. However, if you are ONLY doing those things to lose weight and you’re not seeing results, stop. There’s a better way. Believe it or not, strength training will produce a more efficient weight loss effect than an equal amount of cardio.
When you strength train, your muscles are broken down, and then rebuilt over the next 24-48 hours. While your body is rebuilding those muscles, it’s recruiting more calories and energy to make the process happen (generally referred to as the ‘afterburn’ effect). What this means is that your metabolism operates at a faster level even while you’re sitting on the couch after a workout.
Want to know something else? You don’t NEED to strength train either! I hate saying it, but it’s true: if your goal is to just lose weight, then fixing your diet will get you 80-90% of the way there. If you never want to set foot in a gym or pick up a weight, that’s fine.
For exercise, it’s important to find things that make you happy. Now, if your goals go beyond just losing weight and include things like “looking good” and “being healthy,” then I’m going to ask you to strength train, but there are many ways to do that;
Picking up heavy things
Doing bodyweight exercises
Carrying your kids on a hike
Whatever makes you use your muscles in a strenuous way. Strength training is more than just sweating in a gym! Strength training helps correct issues relating to cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and inactivity – all factors for heart disease. Cardiologists are even starting to recommend strength training for people who have suffered a heart attack as little as three weeks after the attack.
Many young women who want to lose weight believe that not eating is the way to do it, without realising the consequences of that kind of behavior.
Why do you think this is and what’s your perspective on educating society on healthy nutrition habits?
Want to lose weight? Just eat less. A calorie is a calorie is a calorie, right? If you want to lose weight, just eating less will get you there! And eating even LESS than that will help you get there even faster!”
This prevailing attitude is responsible for people all over the country being weak, miserable, irritable, and frustrated. Yes, eating less will help you lose weight. However, that is not the whole story. Surviving on 1200 calories (or less a day) is a miserable way to go through life: always hungry, never happy. Our bodies need real food, and they need enough of it in order to operate at optimum efficiency. Our bodies can react differently to the consumption of protein and healthy fats and vegetables than we do to processed foods, grains, and dairy.
Some trigger positive reactions in our body (“rebuild muscle!”), while others trigger negative reactions (“Spike your blood sugar levels! Pump out more insulin! Winter is coming, so store more fat!”).
You need to eat real foods. And you need to eat enough of it. Honestly, unless you’re incredibly small, I would never recommend ever putting any woman on a diet of 1200 calories. In fact, I don’t recommend women ever dip below 1800 calories per day, if they are exercising regularly! I understand that every woman is different, and every woman processes calories differently, but I can’t emphasize enough that quality of food is so dang important! As long as these calories are composed of the right kinds of food, and this diet is combined with a fun workout that gets your muscles exercising and your heart pumping, you will have success.
Conversely, if you only consume 1200 calories per day and you try to exercise, I’m going to guess your body hates you, won’t have any energy, and potentially even revolt against you! You won’t last long on this routine. This is what we’re trying to avoid. Eat real food! Gluten free cookies are still cookies. 100 calorie packs of junk food? Still junk food. Fat free Oreos contain more sugar and chemicals than regular Oreos. Naked Juices aren’t good for you. Eat enough food to provide your body with energy to get through your day and your workouts. Just eat the right KINDS of foods.
What do you do to maintain balance in your life?
To help you strike the right balance, here are five ways I personally achieve and maintain training, life, work balance. There is no one size fits all approach, but hopefully, these tips will lead to productive discussions for you and your current situation.
1. Be open about your needs. I believe that the first thing people need to do is identify what truly matters to them and communicate it. Don’t hide it and don’t expect others to guess what makes you feel balanced and fulfilled. Do you need to leave work at 5 p.m. so you can have dinner with your family? Do you need to skip dinner with family one night during the week for some “me time” at the gym or to take a nice long run? Do you need to step away at 12 p.m. to attend a yoga class? Whatever your sweet spot is you need to find it and be transparent about it.
2. Respect boundaries. You cannot achieve your balance if you don’t respect the boundaries you have put in place. It will be hard in the beginning but you need to stick with it so you develop a routine and drive a culture and lifestyle of predictability. You will find that there is also something else you can do. There is always another email to reply to or a problem to work, but you need to PERSONALLY respect your boundaries. If you don’t then you can’t expect others to respect them.
3. Understand what really matters. Daily, I see too many people spend too much time working on things that don’t really matter. Time is the most valuable commodity in life: it is the one thing you cannot buy more of. So, don’t waste time. Focus on what really matters. What really moves the needle for your life and propels you toward your goals? Are you working on priorities that drive the overall goals of your life or are you just making noise? Really scrutinize your day and max it out every hour, minute and second to focus on the most important outputs. For some this may require a high degree of planning and structure.
4. Embrace the off button. Pretty much everything has an off button, so use it. It is not easy and for many people this is the hardest thing to do. To get started, do it in phases. Don’t bring your cellphone to the dinner table. When you are on vacation, be on vacation. Don’t bring your tablet to the beach. Don’t bring your meals in tupperware out to a friend’s birthday dinner, when you can just order something healthy from the menu like a normal human being. Once you have done it a few times, it is easier to push the boundaries. When you unplug and step back you will start to experience one of life’s greatest treasures – perspective. You will think about problems you are wrestling with greater clarity. You allow yourself the freedom to be more analytical and less emotional when you step away and think vs. just diving in and responding in the moment.
5. Pace yourself. To have a long, healthy, productive, and happy life and career you need to understand the value of pace. There are times when you need to throttle up and there are times when you can throttle down. Self-awareness is crucial. Doing so will help you enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
How do you stay productive?
To be honest, it was a matter of setting my sights on the end goal and not stopping until it happened.
Can you give a breakdown of your current diet, training and supplementation regimen and the thinking behind it?
Diet: I eat 6 meals a day. All of which contain complex carbohydrates, low fat protein sources and healthy fats (most of which contain high amounts of omegas). Most of my carbohydrate sources are jasmine rice, cream of rice, oats and sweet potatoes. I try to mix up my protein sources, so that I don’t get bored with eating the same meals all the time. I usually interchange chicken breasts, ground turkey, steamed cod and tuna. I also eat one red meat meal each day. I eat 2 servings of fruit each day, usually consisting of a banana, strawberries, blueberries or grapefruit. I get most of the fat in my diet from either whole eggs, coconut oil or red meat. I have realized, over time, that my body responds a lot better to a higher carbohydrate and lower fat diet. It took a lot of trial and error for me to come to that conclusion.
Training: I typically weight train every day, for no more than 45-50 mins. I believe that any more time than that, you should’ve already taxed your muscles/body enough, if you’re training hard enough. I will take off days from weights here and there, if I feel that I need it. I’m very in tune with my body, and know when it’s time to rest. As long as I’m getting enough sleep each day, I’m good to go and don’t need to take the day off. I also get adjusted by my chiropractor every week and get deep tissue massages twice a month, to aid in the muscle recovery process. I like to keep at least 20 mins of cardio in daily, so that I continue to have a healthy appetite and I actually enjoy cardio. Haha crazy right?!
If you could only choose one thing, what would you tell your younger self?
You don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward.
What are your biggest goals for 2017?
I would have to say that my biggest life goal of 2017 is to get first call out in a pro show, get top 3 in a pro show, WIN a pro show, compete in the Arnold Classic or the Olympia and to start a family.
Where can people go to learn more about you online?
Stay tuned for the next interview of Real Talk Real Women!